What Is Christianity?
Variations of Christianity
One of the most misunderstood concepts in the world today is Christianity. There are many variations of it. Some even seem to be in direct contradiction of others. Can we really understand what Christianity is? Is there any way to separate the false from the true? Can we even know what is true?
A Basic Definition
The most basic definition of Christianity is that it is first of all a religion. But what is a religion? A religion is a way of life centered on a set of rules, rituals and goals which are based in the spiritual realm. However, they are practiced in the physical realm. Most are centered on a unique set of teachings or Holy Book.
Every Religion Has a Unique Goal
There are many religions in the world and each has its own unique goal. In Christianity, there are two dominant goals. One is to live a good life and the other is to get to heaven. In Christianity, there are a multitude of rules and rituals each defined by a sub-group. Baptists have their rules and rituals to follow, Methodist have theirs, Roman Catholics have theirs, etc. In fact, some even say that if we don’t follow their rules and rituals, we cannot be a Christian.
The only thing that Christians seem to have in common is that they all claim to follow one set of teachings called the Holy Bible. So to understand what Christianity really is, we need to find out what the Bible says.
The first thing that we notice is that there are rules and rituals in the Bible. There are rules such as the 10 commandments in the book of Exodus. There are rituals such as Holy Communion in I Corinthians. Yet, the emphasis on these is very minor compared to something else that is emphasized throughout the Bible.
Christianity Is a Relationship, Not a Religion
As we study the Bible, we begin to realize that Christianity is really not a religion, but rather a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Christianity, by its very definition, means that is something that is centered on Jesus Christ. So, to properly understand Christianity, we must know who Jesus Christ is and why He was on the earth.
Jesus said in John 10:30 (NIV): “I and the Father are one.” Of course “The Father,” means “God the Father.” Luke 22:70 (NIV) says: “They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He (Jesus) replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’” So the first fact we know about Jesus is that He is the Son of God.
John 3:16 (NIV) says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” To have eternal life, all we have to do is believe in Jesus. This means to accept what He did for us and commit our lives to follow Him.
This means that to be a Christian, we do not need to follow a set of rules or perform a set or rituals. All we must do is develop a saving relationship with Jesus. But, how do we do this? Acts 16:31 (NIV) says: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” And again in Romans 10:9 (NIV) it says: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
How To Be a Christian
So, to be a Christian, we :
1. Accept that Jesus died for us on the Cross and arose from the dead.
2. Then we verify our belief by telling others what we have accepted.
This is developing a saving relationship with Jesus. This is Christianity.
But what about those rules and rituals we find in the Bible? Don’t we have to follow them to be saved and get to heaven? The answer is “No!” Rules and rituals will not save us nor will they get us into heaven.
Remember the criminal on the cross who was crucified with Jesus. He was sorry for the sins that he had committed and recognized Jesus for who He was. He asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus answered him, Luke 23:43 (NIV): “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Rules and Rituals In Christianity
There is a special place for those “rules and rituals” in Christianity. They are not for the purpose of getting us to heaven or getting us in a good relationship with God. They won’t do a thing to bring us salvation.
Rules are simply guidelines to help us have a good relationship with God. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will have a desire to live in a right relationship with God. These “rules” are simply guidelines to help us do this.
Rituals are ceremonies to help us remember what we need to remember to keep that relationship fresh in our minds. As long as we live on this earth, there will be a multitude of distractions to try to draw us away from God. Satan is also doing his best to get us to forget about God. So these “rituals” are to help us to remember what God did for us through Jesus Christ. They are to help us to walk more closely with God.
Rituals help us to solidify our faith. We live in a physical world and we express our faith through physical experiences. We make our faith real through physical expressions. For instance, we use the ritual of Baptism to make our repentance real to us. Otherwise, it is much too easy to forget that we repented of our sins. Through Baptism, we have an activity that will stay in our memory and remind us that God has forgiven us of our sins.
Christianity Is a Relationship with God through Jesus Christ
So the best definition of Christianity is that it is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is lived out though our actions as we live in this world. This relationship is developed and made real to us as we experience the rituals and follow the guidelines given to us by God.